For the last couple days I have been reading the pastoral epistles—Paul’s two letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus. Paul wrote these three letters to young men who had just been put in leadership positions in the church to give them advice on how to be good pastors; as a young minister myself, more than once I have returned to these books to remind me of my duties.
As I was reading this morning, I noticed this piece of advice to Timothy:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
I think the first thing we should notice is the priority that Paul gives to prayer. First of all—before we do anything else—we should be praying for everyone, and especially our authorities. Our President and our pastor should be among the first we mention when we talk with the Lord. But we should pray for everyone; and we should give our times of prayer number one priority in our lives. It should be first of all.
But I want to focus our attention in particular on the word intercession in this passage. Our English word intercession comes from the Latin word intercedo, which means “to come between, to stand between, to intervene”. When we intercede for someone, we are standing in between them and God, praying on their behalf. We are being a go-between. We put ourselves between them and God, and between them and their trial, and help bear their burden in prayer.
In this setting of scripture the Greek word translated as intercession is ἔντευξις (enteuxis). It’s a very rare word in the NT. It only occurs twice, both in 1 Timothy. When I looked this word up in a lexicon, I was amazed by the wide range of meanings that this word can have.
The word often involves requesting something from someone else. ἔντευξις implies a private, personal conversation with someone; a conversation with a close friend where you can say things you normally wouldn’t and ask for things you normally wouldn’t. Another meaning for the term, not all that different if you think about it, is sexual intimacy.
Some of our most intimate times with God will be when we pray on behalf of someone else. God meets with us in a special, intimate way when we focus on the needs of others in prayer. This connotation of intercession/ἔντευξις makes me want to pray even more for the needs of others, knowing that it will bring me closer to the heart of my God. I want intimate communion with him. I want to be able to speak to God as one of his deepest, closest friends. And this kind of intimacy is possible when we pray on behalf of others.
Let’s find a place and pray for one of our friends. It will bless them, and it will bring us closer to God in a new and intimate way.